Halliburton, U.S. Reach Settlement In Bribery Probe

Halliburton Corp. has announced it will pay out more than $560 million to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a probe into bribery and bid-rigging in contracts around the world. Investigative journalist Lowell Bergman talks about the settlement.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Halliburton Corporation announced today that it will make $560 million in payments to the SEC and the Justice Department to settle an international bribery and bid-rigging investigation. Halliburton's former subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root, known as KBR, negotiated the contracts under investigation.

Investigative journalist and filmmaker Lowell Bergman has been tracking the story. He joins me now. Lowell, before we get to that settlement, tell us about the actions that led up to today's announcement. What kind of bribery are we talking about here?

Mr. LOWELL BERGMAN (Investigative Journalist and Filmmaker): We're talking about the bribery of the president, late president of Nigeria and his closest associations. And we're talking about bid-rigging, apparently, in countries ranging from Egypt to Oman to Indonesia - all involving multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas projects, some of the largest construction projects in the world.

NORRIS: And this case involves the former CEO of KBR, a man named Albert Stanley, known as Jack, primarily. Is this the primary character in this, or were there other people involved?

Mr. BERGMAN: Well, there's a wide variety of characters involved, many of whom are yet to be charged. But the investigation has been going on for five years, actually, since someone blurted out in a French courtroom that there was a really big scandal no one knew about. And that centered on, that scandal, on Mr. Stanley, who was the CEO of Kellogg Brown and Root when it was created by Halliburton Corporation when Dick Cheney was the CEO.

NORRIS: Could this case, if it does continue, could it ultimately touch the former Vice President Dick Cheney?

Mr. BERGMAN: So far he doesn't seem to be implicated. Sources close to - Mr. Stanley is now cooperating. He started cooperating last June. And we believe that this has resulted in further investigations for the grand jury testimony in the case, which may go up the chain of command in the corporation. ..TEXT: NORRIS: Five hundred and sixty million dollars sounds like a lot of money, but Halliburton is a huge company with holdings all over the world. Is it possible that this could be viewed not so much as a large settlement, but really as more of a slap on the wrist?

Mr. BERGMAN: When you look at the overall value of Halliburton Corporation, this doesn't look like a lot of money, but it's significantly embarrassing for any - particularly publicly traded - company to admit that the way they were getting business was through bribery.

This is the biggest case of its kind that's ever been proven. It's had an impact in various places around the world about the way business is done. I think one of the bigger questions that's been raised in some of the reporting we've done is that as these fines are collected, do the countries where these crimes were committed, do they get any of that money back? Does Nigeria get any of that money for probably being overcharged in the building of a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant? So there are other issues that are emerging out of this.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this is a growing international movement, led in part by certain multinational corporations who've decided that this was no longer the way to do business, as well as a number of governments who figure this is the only way to level the playing field in a global marketplace that's becoming increasingly more difficult to do business in.

NORRIS: Lowell Bergman, good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. BERGMAN: Thank you.

NORRIS: Lowell Bergman is an investigative journalist and a filmmaker. He's been tracking this story for an upcoming documentary on the PBS show "Frontline."

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